via NBA.com

Lakers fans are tired of waiting…

But the next best thing to a championship is watching young stars develop before our eyes.

The Lakers took a risk by selecting D’Angelo Russell as the N0. 2 pick in this year’s NBA Draft over Jahlil Okafor.

They chose the future over the present. In Russell, they have a pass-first point guard with court vision like Magic Johnson.

The case can be made for the starters, bench or health as bigger factors to the Lakers’ success this season, but Russell’s development will determine how far they go. Here are the arguments against the aforementioned:

Starters: Can Kobe Bryant stay healthy? Probably not. Will Jordan Clarkson continue to improve? Most likely. Can Roy Hibbert become the Lakers defensive anchor? Possibly, with limited help. Will Julius Randle reach his potential? He’s on the right track. Each of the four starters mentioned can have breakout individual performances, but Russell’s game is about elevating the play of his teammates more than it is about personal accolades.

Bench: Can Marcelo Huertas be what Steve Nash was supposed to be? He’s already better. Will Lou Williams contend for 6th man of the year again? Doubt it, not enough touches. Can Brandon Bass be as impactful as Ed Davis was? He’ll fit in seamlessly. Is Nick Young finally out of the doghouse? If he’s not, he’ll be traded soon. Can Metta World Peace contribute effectively 15-20 minutes a game? I think so. Bench players rarely have the impact starters can because of lack playing time and although Williams and Young can score in spurts, they’re flashy at best.

via Lakers.com

Health: The Lakers Achilles’ Heel for the past three seasons. Ever since Phil Jackson retired as Head Coach, a dark cloud has been over the Lakers in terms of staying healthy. The problem with injuries is not a matter of if, but when. The Lakers had more than their fair share of injuries in recent years, but it’s not something you can plan for. Each season’s champion dodges the injury bug better than their opponents, but even with perfect health, the Lakers will be in a dogfight to make the playoffs in the West.

Russell’s play matters more to this Lakers team than any other player for three reasons: court vision, basketball IQ & lack of athleticism. Russell said he visualizes plays before they happen and the Lakers are counting on his ability to deliver his teammates easy baskets. Russell is also a student of game and his determination to improve daily makes him smarter each time he steps on the court (loading…). Lastly what scouts critiqued him about will end up being one of his strengths. Most young players rely on athleticism instead of fundamentals early in their career, but once they get hurt and age, their performance declines. Russell will never out-run or out-jump his opponent, therefore he relies on his brain to out-wit the competition.

The Lakers are definitely in a rebuilding season, but if Russell contends for Rookie of the Year, the Lakers will surprise many and make the playoffs.

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Author, blogger, speaker & die-hard Lakers fan

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